5 things for Houstonians to know for Friday, March 5

A mask required sign is displayed on the entrance to a business Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) (Lm Otero, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Here are things to know for Friday, March 5:

1. 3 of Gov. Greg Abbott’s four coronavirus medical advisers say they weren’t directly consulted prior to lifting mask mandate

In April 2020, an optimistic Gov. Greg Abbott announced at the Texas Capitol that he would soon take initial steps to allow businesses to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.

The loosening of restrictions, his team said, would be informed by a statewide “strike force,” composed of business leaders and four medical experts who would advise the governor on a safe, phased plan.

This time, however, Abbott’s team of medical advisers appeared to play a minimal role in the decision. Three of the four said on Wednesday that Abbott did not directly consult with them prior to the drastic shift in policy. The fourth said he couldn’t say whether the move was a good idea.

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2. KPRC 2 Trust Index: Are immigrants with COVID-19 entering the US?

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was fired up on Wednesday after President Joe Biden called the governor’s decision to end the mask mandate “Neanderthal thinking.”

The governor accused President Biden of letting COVID-19 positive undocumented immigrants into the country through our state’s southern border.

Is that claim true? That’s what a lot of you have been asking. We’re putting it through the KPRC 2 Trust Index.

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3. Texas businesses must decide whether to require face masks. Some worry they could lose customers either way.

As small-business owners and managers across Texas went to work Wednesday morning, they faced yet another 2021 headache: deal with losing business from customers who don’t want to wear face masks during the pandemic or from patrons who will only frequent places that require them.

The dilemma was abruptly thrust upon them after Gov. Greg Abbott announced yesterday afternoon that the state will lift its mask mandate and allow all businesses to operate at 100% capacity starting March 10.

Some businesses barely had an opportunity to reopen after last month’s deadly winter storm and power outage crisis before hearing about this massive change to the state’s COVID-19 safety protocols.

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4. California COVID-19 variant identified in Harris County

As more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, there is another twist to the coronavirus situation in Harris County -- the California variant showed up.

“Just on the face of it, it looks a little alarming,” exclaimed infectious disease doctor, Linda Yancey.

She said the California variant was deadlier than other variants in a small study.

“So it’s not the time to panic yet, the jury is still out we are going to have to look at this in a larger number of patients to see if it’s as alarming as it appears at first blush,” Yancey said.

Harris County Public Health confirmed three cases of the California variant within Harris county. Officials said those three Harris County residents are no longer in isolation or contagious.

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5. Fired ERCOT leader refuses more than $800,000 severance pay in storm aftermath

Bill Magness, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas CEO who was terminated by his board Wednesday, said he will not seek or accept severance pay, according to a spokesperson. He would have been owed more than $800,000, his contract shows.

The board for the nonprofit entity that operates and manages the electricity grid that covers much of Texas voted Wednesday in favor of his 60-day termination notice.

Magness was terminated without cause, a spokesperson said. According to the terms of his employment contract, his severance pay would have been equivalent to one year of his current base salary, which is more than $800,000.

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